Funniest Translation Mistakes of 2015 (So Far)

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Can you believe we’re over halfway through 2015? Me neither. It’s been a great year for translation mistakes so far, so let’s take a look at some of the funniest translation errors and gaffes to date:

Please Don’t Eat the Carpet

The staff at Chennai Airport in India were just trying to keep crumbs off the floor, but something got lost in translation…

A photo posted by #JewJetting (@justinrosslee) on

It seems they meant “No sitting and eating on the carpet.”

Welcome to Penis Island

Doesn’t that sound like a lovely place to vacation? A Gaelic sign welcoming visitors to the Isle of Bute was missing a rather important accent mark. The forgotten punctuation changed the meaning from “Welcome to the Beauty of the Isle of Bute”  to “Welcome to the beauty of Penis Island.”

As Outlander Gaelic coach Adhamh Broin explained to Scotland Now: 

“It’s meant to be the genitive clause, not the genital clause. A genitive clause is when one noun follows another and its form changes. Bh id is Bute but Bod is penis. You would need the accent over the “D”. It says, ‘Welcome to the doorway to the beauty of Penis Island’.

Mr Broin, we see what you did there.

Lindsey Lohan Makes a Donkey of Herself

Lindsey Lohan is known for a lot of things. Her fluent Arabic is not one of them.  So, it’s no surprise her attempt at connecting with her Arabic fans on Instagram ended in disgrace. She posted an image that was supposed to say “You’re beautiful” in both English and Arabic. Unfortunately, the Arabic version translated to “You’re a donkey.”  Oops!

Phil Neville’s Astonishing Confession

Valencia’s new assistant football coach Phil Neville tried to practise his Spanish skills on Twitter last month. He attempted to tell his Spanish-speaking followers about his “early morning run on the beach to start the day.” Unfortunately, he used the word “corrida,” which turned the tweet into a bit of a vulgar overshare for his more dirty-minded fans. You see, “corrida” can mean run, but it also means “ejaculate.” Oh well, at least he tried, right?

Jackie Chan’s Bus Stop

Everyone knows Jackie Chan is awesome. But awesome enough to have a bus stop in Sichuan, China named after him? Apparently, he did for a period of time. But only because an automatic translation error made it so. According to, it should have read “Sichuan Normal University Campus Station.”

Skype Translate Has a Swearing Problem

In April, Microsoft launched Skype Translator, offering real-time voice translation in Chinese. Unfortunately, as reported in the Global Times, the system was far from perfect when it launched:

“The technology is something out of science fiction. Its deep-neural-network speech recognition and real-time language translation is sure to change the course of computational linguistics. But what nobody from Microsoft’s research division had apparently planned on was a little something known as The Great Firewall, which obstructs the Skype system from working consistently.

A glitch in the beta software misinterpreted the words I spoke. “It’s nice to talk to you” was translated as “It’s f*cking nice to f*ck you,” and other synthesized profanity, like the icebox robot in 1970’s sci-fi flick Logan’s Run, but with Tourette Syndrome.”

Not sure whether this was due to a connection problem or just the vagaries of machine translation, but it’s funny either way.

That’s Not Kosher!

When you get a tattoo in a foreign language, it’s important to verify the translation before it gets permanently inked into your skin.  Some poor veteran in the United States learned that the hard way this year.  He thought the tattoo on his arm was Hebrew for“strength.” Alas, the symbols on his arm actually mean “matzoh.”

The mistake came to light when he encountered some people who knew Hebrew in Walmart. A photo of his mistranslated tattoo went viral on Facebook, captioned “Let’s just say, there is a white guy in Arkansas walking around with the Hebrew word for ‘cracker’ on his arm…and he doesn’t know it!”

Translation is a tricky business, and mistakes like these are hard to avoid without the help of a skilled translator. You want your business to be recognised for the right reasons, and not for making an awkward or off-colour mistake. As you seek out other markets around the globe, skilled translators can help ensure your message doesn’t get lost in translation.

Are you looking for translation services? We can help with that!